Updated: Jun 21
The photo below was taken by Lawrie Duff in the 1960s and shows lower Front Street in Kaslo, including one building that’s still there and another that is long gone but is so striking that it took me a moment to comprehend what I was looking at.
The building at left is known as the 1896 block (for the year it was built), or the Riedel and Kuester block, or the R&K block, after the bakers and grocers who built it.
The Kootenaian, May 16, 1896
Kaslo: The Lucerne of North America, ca. 1899-1900
It has had many uses over the years, but was reportedly near derelict when it was purchased and restored in 1974.
But it’s the other building that is the impetus for this post. The sign tells us it was once the Burns & Co. Ltd. meat market.
Kaslo: The Lucerne of North America, ca. 1899-1900
View of the Burns Meat Market with butcher Henry J. Pett, two helpers, Esther Pett (age four or so) and her dog Prince standing on sidewalk, circa 1910. (Kootenay Lake Archives 989.016.0001)
Whatever this building was later on (and it looks like it was vacant in the 1960s), it had not been home to the Burns Co. in more than 20 years. I doubt the building stood much longer, although I don’t know its exact fate. Here is how both buildings appeared on the 1908 and 1913 fire insurance plans, at lower left, with another lost structure next to them.
The Burns operation in Kaslo began life in 1892 as the Wilson and Perdue meat market, although the building pictured above was presumably not built until 1894 or later, following the fire and flood of that year that devastated lower Front Street.
Nelson Tribune, Dec. 1, 1892
Separately, W.J. Wilson had been in partnership with Pat Burns of Calgary, but in November 1894 Wilson sold out to both partners. Burns and Perdue then teamed up to run meat markets at Nelson, Kaslo, and Three Forks.
The Prospector, July 25, 1895
Perdue and Burns appear to have dissolved their partnership around 1896, leaving Burns in charge of a growing empire. S.J. Reuter was the Kaslo manager until 1911 when he left to run the Maze saloon with Edward Latham (they later had the King George Hotel).
British Columbia News, March 4, 1898
In 1938, Eric Aldous arrived in Kaslo from Calgary with wife Agnes to take over the Burns meat market. Around 1940 the business moved to 425 Front, although I don’t know why. Then, around 1946, Aldous bought the business from Burns & Co. (Pat Burns died in 1937 one of Canada’s richest men). He renamed it Eric’s Meat Market.
Nelson Daily News, May 22, 1947
Eric kept the business going until his death in 1955. Agnes then hired Andy Porter in 1956 to run the business. He married the eldest Aldous daughter, Betty, and the Porters raised their family in the second-floor apartment. Son Doug apprenticed to his father as a butcher and took over with his wife Denise in 1996.
The Aldous-Porter family connection to the business finally ended in 2022, after 84 years, when it was sold to Forrest and Bernelle Collier in partnership with Angus Collier and Daniella Hansen, all of whom grew up in the area. Forrest started working at Eric’s at age 13 and apprenticed under Doug Porter. Daniella also had her first job there at age 14. The interior still boasts some antiques, including a Burns & Co. calendar and a cooler room door with brass hinges.
Front Street in Kaslo, 1959. (Donovan Clemson photo, from the book Old Wooden Buildings)
In the photo above, we see Eric’s Meat Market at right. At extreme right is Gordon D. Bowker, real estate and insurance, in the brick building now home to Willow Home Boutique. They are seen below in 2006.
And here they are in 2023. Note the tree in the background is gone.
BC Assessment gives a construction date of 1894 on Eric’s Meat Market, which was reportedly originally Billy Noble’s barbershop. It appeared on the 1908 and 1913 fire insurance maps as an office building. Not sure of the date of construction on the Willow building, but according to Heritage Homes and Buildings of Kaslo:
When David Kane became postmaster [in 1905], he moved the post office from across the street to this building. In part of the building he also had his insurance business. The 1500 Club was also located here. This was an insurance scheme against burial costs. The fees were $1. At one time this building also housed the stock exchange.
The building was damaged in a 1950 fire that destroyed several of its neighbours.
The other three buildings seen at left in the 1959 photo are also still standing, although their lower facades were unfortunately all modernized. Here they all are on the 1908/13 fire insurance maps at left. The Willow Building is marked “post office” although curiously the map does not indicate that it was brick. Nor does it indicate what the other three buildings were home to at the time.
Here is how the latter three looked in 2018.
And more colourfully in 2023. Note a balcony has been added back on to the Treehouse.
BC Assessment gives construction dates of 1900 on all three, but they are probably older than that. Of the Treehouse Restaurant, on the left at 419 Front, Heritage Homes and Buildings of Kaslo says:
Once this building housed Mrs. Bell’s millinery shop. There have been various restaurants [The Drexel and Musicland cafes], a drug store and a variety store since then.
The Prospector, April 11, 1895
The book does not comment on the early uses of the building to the right of the Treehouse at 421 Front, but in 1949 it became the Musicland Theatre, operated by the Hetheringtons.
Nelson Daily News, Feb. 11, 1949
At 423 Front, the book says: “Strathearn’s Silver Star grocery store. The front of the building has been brought out closer to the sidewalk. It was probably built after .”
What of the site of the original meat market? It became a covered seating area for the Mountain King take-out and is now part of the Angry Hen brewery.
Updated on June 17, 2023 to add the photos from Kaslo: the Lucerne of North America, with thanks to Darlene Smith, and the clipping from The Kootenaian. Updated on June 20, 2023 to add the photo from the Kootenay Lake Archives, with thanks to Elizabeth Scarlett.